Driving Trends in Park Design and Development

Article excerpt

ON NOV. 5, 2009, the Sustainable Sites Initiative announced the release of the first rating system for the creation and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, a system that will likely have significant impact on the design and development of the nation's public parks and recreation areas.

Outlined in the report, Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009 along with a companion report, The Case for Sustainable Landscapes, the new rating system provides metrics for rating sustainable developed landscapes. If prerequisites are met, a four-star rating system may award up to 250 points in 51 separate credit areas, such as site selection, soils, vegetation, restoration of disturbed sites, recycling of materials, and sustainable construction methods. The rating system also requires a continuous cycle of assessment and evaluation to encourage regular updates to management practices.

Rich Dolesh, chief public policy officer of the National Recreation and Park Association has served as a member of the Sustainable Sites Initiative's Steering Committee since its inception in 2006. Dolesh notes that the committee has assumed from the start that public lands owners especially parks and recreation agencies--will be prime candidates to use the rating system.

"Many park planners and administrators have told us that there is a lack of an equivalent system for landscapes to the LEED rating system [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design], which is the international standard for green building, and thus there was no way to receive credit for exemplary practices."

Dolesh continues. "The simple realities of shrinking budgets and general economic conditions dictate that we have to reduce the cost of energy consumption and live more sustainably. And it is not merely the principle of doing no harm, but rather the desire to look at how we can turn the effects of every human change that we make into net benefits to the environment. …